While 1970 was not the complete end of the GM luxury convertible (the Eldorado would keep Topless Broughamance alive through the 1976 model year), it WAS the end of the true full-size drop-top land yacht. For one more round, you had your choice of REAL BIG convertibles!
In Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight,
Buick Electra 225,
And Cadillac De Ville flavors. So if you wanted one, now was the time to take action! I would take any of the three, but we’re focusing on Flint’s favorite today, since that’s the car I stumbled upon at the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour when they stopped for the evening in Bettendorf, Iowa, back in the summer of 2014.
Yes, due to recent safety regulations and the beginning of GM bean-counting, the ’70 Electra 225 was perhaps not quite as imposing as, say, a 1965 or 1966, but the Nimitz-class convertibles still held their own against any domestic luxury car in the year of our Lord 1970.
All 1970 Electras were, as expected, mildly touched-up for the new model year, and received a new, more squared-off grille and front bumper, among other refinements. As had been the case for many years, the Electra received more formal styling over the less-prestigious Wildcat (in its final year of availability) and LeSabre, with more squared-up rear quarter panels and standard fender skirts. All of these sheetmetal differences only made the convertible look more imposing, luxurious, and special–at least in your author’s opinion!
Okay, now if I may digress for a moment, I have to mention the black interior. A BLACK interior? On a convertible? Why would you do this if you planned on driving a convertible in, say, the summertime, with, say, the top down? A great way to flash-fry those little decorative seat buttons into the backs of your legs! I love this Electra 225 convertible, but definitely would have chosen the white interior instead. It would have contrasted nicely with the black cherry paint, and have kept my legs scar-free in the warmer months. In fact, if it was available, a red interior would have made for a pretty decadent color combo too.
There were two series of Electras for 1970, the standard 225 and more ornate 225 Custom. Convertible availability was restricted to the latter trim level, and prices started at $4802. For comparison’s sake, a Ninety-Eight convertible started at $4914 (yes, the “lesser” Olds was more!) and the Caddy at $6068.
The GMs had most of the market to themselves, too, as the nearest competitors were the $5195 Chrysler Three Hundred and $4769 Chrysler Newport convertible, $4047 Mercury Marquis, and $3429 Mercury Monterey convertibles–all in their last year of availability, just like the Electra drop top. 1,077 Chrysler Three Hundred convertibles were built. I actually have a friend who owns one of these rare beauties-I should do an article on it sometime! Jim would get a kick out of it.
The cheaper Newport sold only slightly better, to the tune of 1,124 fuselage-bodied open-top land yachts. Face it, air conditioning was killing convertible demand. And those who wanted a convertible by 1969-71 usually went for something sportier, like a Mustang. But even ponycar convertible was declining, and the last year for Mustang convertibles (until the ’80s, that is) was 1973.
The Marquis convertible was pretty spiffy with its pinstriping and button-tufted seats (and I simply love the hidden headlamps!), yet at the end of the model year only 1,233 of them had been sold.
The Marquis was downright common, however, compared to its more modestly-priced sibling. If you’ve ever seen a 1970 Monterey convertible, you’re in rare company, as only 581 were sold! These sales figures make even the sub-10,000 production figure of the Electra convertible look impressive. The market for full-size convertibles was truly dwindling.
Let’s be honest: In 1970 GM still had a pretty sterling reputation. It was the safe, solid choice for many people. So really, most folks who had the bank account to get a big luxury convertible most likely would have gone for one of the Olds, Buick or Caddy models.
Only 6,045 Electra 225 Custom convertibles were sold, along with 3,161 topless Ninety-Eights and 15,172 De Ville drop-tops. Clearly the Caddy was the favorite among well-heeled sun-lovers, but as much as I love the Cadillac version (and the one in the brochure pic further above is stunning in Nottingham Green Firemist with white leather), there is something compelling about the less-popular Buick and Olds versions. You just don’t see them that often. I’ve never seen a ’70 Ninety-Eight convertible, even though I attended the Oldsmobile Nationals in Milwaukee in 2015. So I was super excited to view and digitally record this Black Cherry beauty! And if you’re wondering about the title, James Lee Burke is my favorite author, with his Dave Robicheaux novels. Although his fedora-wearing private detective Clete Purcell may favor Caddy drop-tops, I think he’d like this Electra too!